Sunday Trust online

Seasonal miscellaneous musings

The year 2012 has come to a close, making some stock taking necessary and in order. The year took off, lest we forget, on a baleful and quarrelsome note, when led as usual by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Civil Society groups Nigerians poured into the streets to protest the hiking of pump price of fuel from 65 naira to 97 naira per litre. And so, the New Year commenced in a foul mood as Nigerians in a rare show of unity marched on the streets of cities across the length and breath of the country from Abia to Zamfara.  The fuel protests showed that Nigerians could organize and express their deeply felt anger on the subsidy issue whose meaning has become more and more confused and confusing such that very few really understand what it means anymore other than the fact that it has become a weapon in the hands of successive governments to raise funds whenever they become cash strapped arising out of their profligacy.

Anyway, like most protests, the impact of the January one was limited. Government hoodwinked those at the vanguard of the protest into abandoning it by merely bringing down the pump price to 97 naira and not to the former price of 65 naira per litre. The government’s grudging gesture succeeded in calming frayed nerves and douse the raging smouldering anger of the protesters and succeeded into making everyone to go back to his occupation. After this early disagreement, Nigerians settled down to the humdrum of daily existence, characterized by payment of higher bills -- fallout of the subsidy removal measure. Governance, meanwhile, continued in its dull and numbing colourlessness, punctuated by one or two hue and cry about yet another disclosure of theft in high places.

As the year inexorably wore on, tragedy struck a few times in the form of air mishaps and the flooding of huge tracts of the country, particularly the basin of the Benue River. On March 14, the newly appointed Deputy Inspector General of Police John Haruna was killed in a helicopter crash in the vicinity of Jos, Plateau State, while he was on duty tour. This was followed by the Dana Airline accident on June 3, this time around close to the city of Lagos, accentuating Nigeria’s deplorable air safety record. Issues about the DANA Airlines incident have hardly been resolved when just a few weeks ago another helicopter plunged into the watery mangrove in Bayelsa State killing Patrick Yakowa, the governor of Kaduna State, and retired General Owoyo Azazi along with their personal and security details. They were coming back from the burial ceremony of the father of Oronto Douglas - a presidential aide. These incidents have prompted most Nigerians to wish that the government would not stop merely at tallying the statistics of the dead but move hastily to put a stop to the unending carnage that air travel operations have come to connote.

Nigerians who joined their ancestors in the great beyond include Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and Lateef Adegbite. The first had got his name into the annals of Nigeria long before his death for championing separatist agitation over which a 30-month bitter war was fought to keep the polity one. The fire he ignited has not been put out entirely because in certain dingy and disreputable ramparts of the East, embers of separatism still flicker once in a while. Alhaji Lateef  Adegbite, a lawyer, was noted more however as one of the leading lights of Islam in Nigeria, serving for several years as the secretary-general of one of its foremost organs – The Jama’atul Nasril Islam.

Unprecedented rainfall in the year caused an equally unprecedented flooding that overtook most of the country pulling down buildings, washing away farmlands and inundating many homesteads and city streets in its wake, making those who built palaces along river channels to gnash their teeth as water sacked them from their homes. The flooding was an act of God that warned of the folly of thwarting basic law governing where to erect houses and town planning matters generally. So overwhelming was the flooding that it virtually covered the Murtala Muhammed Bridge at Lokoja, rendering it impassable and leaving travellers with no choice but to camp at the banks of the river to wait for it to recede. I am made to know however that usually flooding is followed by bumper harvests as the alluvial soil washed up by the flood provide the fertility needed by crops to yield bountifully. How about that for cold comfort?

The year witnessed two elections – the gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo States – which provided some inkling that Nigeria may have turned the corner for the good in organizing and conducting conflict-free elections. The voters returned the incumbents in the two states to their posts as recognition of their performances in office. And so Adams Oshiomhole of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Olufemi Mimiko of the Labour Party retained their governors’ seats after a withering campaign that many had feared would degenerate into violence. As it happened however conflict was minimal and the election process went smoothly which bodes well for subsequent elections. For those who may wish to demur that getting it right in two states should not obscure the difficulties inherent in nationwide elections as the logistical and administrative challenges demanded could be daunting, the appropriate retort is that may well be so; still, it is appropriate to thank God for small mercies. The clockwork perfection of the Edo and Ondo States’ gubernatorial elections could be replicated on the national scale if the willingness to make it succeed exists. After all, if Ghana which has just recently elected a new government has made successful, conflict-free elections a routine affair, surely Nigeria can also do same.

I am happy to report that by general agreement, at least from those I have talked to, availability of electricity has improved tremendously. Homes and work places, including factories and industries, have stopped whining about the non-availability of power. If we are agreed on this, then it can be safely asserted that a silver lining has at long last appeared on the horizon in the power sector, never mind the official summersault and indecision on the power sector, as 2012 recedes into history. Certainly, it is an appropriate launch pad for Nigeria in 2013.

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